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How Does Online College Education Work?

written by: Akili Amina•edited by: Sarah Malburg•updated: 8/25/2009

Are you considering going back to school to earn an online college degree? This article will give you a brief overview of what to expect before beginning your online college education degree and what you can expect.

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    What Are the Types of Online College Education?

    If you are someone who has decided to go back to school to increase your skill set or someone who wants to achieve their lifelong goal of holding a college degree, online college education is a great alternative. You can go back to school from the comfort of your own home or opt for taking some classes online along with other courses taken at your local college to obtain your degree.

    Whatever way you decide to take your classes, just remember that usually a school offers their classes solely online or they have a brick and mortar school in your local area where you can combine them both. If there aren't certain courses that you need that are available in the traditional setting, you can take them online. This way of earning your degree is sometimes called distance learning. In this setting the choice is totally up to you. If they have a class that is full and you aren't able to attend, you can check to see if they have an online version of the class and take it that way.

    The other type of online college education that a school can offer is when all classes offered are available online only. When you attend a school that only offers coursework over the web, they are be considered an online learning establishment. They differ from the distance learning establishment in that the online learning school doesn't have a physical campus in your area. This school may not be in your state or even in your country. There is no way to have physical contact with the school unless you travel frequently.

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    Which Is Best For Me?

    There are many factors that must be considered when deciding whether you should attend an distance learning school or an online learning establishment. First, you must know which type of degree you are seeking. If you are seeking a degree that may need you to have hands on coursework, such as lab work, you should consider going to a distance learning school. If your intended degree doesn't require any lab work or it isn't mandatory that you attend classes in the traditional way, online learning might be a great alternative for you. This decision is one that you should mull over thoroughly before signing up with any school.

    Secondly, a online college degree from an online learning establishment may be great if you need flexibility in your schedule due to work or other obligations. Online learning universities are usually open around the clock, even on holidays. This type of versatility might be one that you can't live without, especially if you have a family. The online learner is sometimes thought to be more involved when it comes to their coursework because they can spend more time with their studies online compared to those who go to school in the traditional setting.

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    What Do They Want From Me?

    If you decide that you want to attend a school that is strictly online and instructor led, great. But you will be expected to follow the course syllabus and participate just as like any other type of schooling. The online learning coursework that is led by an instructor does not in no way release you from the responsibility of regular attendance or from class participation.You will be expected to turn in your assignments as set by them early on. You will be graded upon your adherence to all class rules and coursework assignments. So, the instructor led online learning experience isn't much different from the traditional classroom setting.

    The distance learning setting may require that you do a big portion of your classes over the web up until you get to some of your classes that you need to do lab work. Your lab work is not one that you can get by with over the Internet, so you will have to take that part of the class or classes at school. You will need to set that up with your administrators before you begin classes for that semester.

    There are some online learning classes that you can take over the web that are not instructor led. You have the option of taking them at your own pace and can take as long as you need. This will help you to gain certificates that will help you improve your overall skill set.

    Overall, you should look for a school that offers the type of degree you want and ensure that they are accredited. You can search for your intended school's accreditation by going to the U.S. Department of Education Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs. All in all, make the most of reaching your goal of becoming a higher learning student and degree holder.